By Scarlett Bain
Scarlett Bain: What do we mean when we talk about the Global South?
Vijay Prashad: Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research, which I direct, has just released a study called Hyper-Imperialism: A Dangerous Decadent New Stage. In this study, we go into detail about the concepts of the Global South and the Global North. Our analysis shows that the Global North operates as a bloc, organised by at least three different formations – the G7, NATO, and the Fourteen Eyes intelligence network. The Global South, on the other hand, can be best understood as a set of countries that are objectively united by a few features (a colonial history, a condition of indebtedness, a history of unity in the Third World Project) but which do not necessarily have a subjective unity around any military, economic, or intelligence formation. The Global South is an assemblage rather than a bloc.
What brings these countries together into the Global South?
These countries of the Global South are united objectively by the features I mentioned above (colonial history, condition of indebtedness, history of unity in the Third World Project). What really brings them together in this time is not these elements, although they form the bedrock of the emerging unities. What brings them together is the loss of legitimacy of the Global North since the start of the Third Great Depression in 2007, which came alongside a declined legitimacy due to the illegal war against Iraq and was then followed by the totally senseless destruction of Libya by the United States and France.
That loss of legitimacy came alongside the emergence of the possibilities provided by the Chinese surpluses that were recycled into the countries of Africa, Asia, and Latin America through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI – unlike the International Monetary Fund and other Western funding sources – put a priority on infrastructure and not on quick returns for Foreign Direct Investment (FDI), allowing longer term development rather than cannibalisation of currencies by ‘hot money’.
The combination of the loss of legitimacy of the Global North and the possibilities of the arrival of China on the world stage created a ‘new mood’ in the Global South.
What are the objectives of the Global South?
For now, what we see is a ‘new mood’ in the Global South. The principal objectives are rooted in two categories – regionalism and multilateralism, both concepts motivated by a desire to democratise the world order in economic and political terms. From the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation to the Southern Common Market (Mercosur), this regionalism is already being developed, and now with more and more interest in local currency denominated trade, this regionalism is materially possible.
Linked to this regionalism is the expansion of the idea of multilateralism, the belief that the global institutions (UN, WTO) must not be instruments of the Global North but must allow their agenda to be developed by all the member states of these institutions. In other words, the core agenda here is the genuine democratisation of the world economy and of the global institutions.
Is the dynamism of the Global South poised to shake up the established world order?
In fact, the ‘new mood’ in the Global South and the creation of regional economies and the revitalisation of the multilateral part of global institutions is already shaking up the established order. The refusal to bow down to pressure from the Global North on the war in Ukraine or on Israel’s genocidal war against the Palestinians (including South Africa’s role in bringing Israel to the International Court of Justice) indicates that this ‘shake up’ is already happening rather than something to be anticipated. I believe that this is an irreversible process and that the only instrument that the Global North has to prevent this is war.
Currently, as Tricontinental shows in our new study (Hyper-Imperialism), the NATO countries and their allies account for three quarters of the world’s military spending. This is grotesque and it results in an even more grotesque military diplomacy, a diplomacy of sanctions and war, of confrontation rather than collaboration.
Does the Global South have a role to play in ending current conflicts?
The current conflicts – say in Ukraine or against the Palestinians – are creatures of the Global North’s arrogance. What was the need for NATO to push itself closer and closer to the Russian border despite promises made during German re-unification? That is the core reason that produced the war in Ukraine. Who are the most important enablers of apartheid Israel’s occupation of the Palestinians, who but the Global North? The Global South – whether through the BRICS 10 or the Group of Friends in Defence of the UN Charter – has called for ceasefires, negotiations, and development, but their views are not given any airtime by the Global North-dominated media.
In Europe, for instance, any call for a ceasefire in Ukraine is branded as being Russian-talking-points, even if these calls come from Brazil or South Africa; this failure to listen to the Global South at this time and to accuse the Global South of being unable to formulate its own opinions, is part of the North Atlantic’s inheritance of colonialism and racism. Sincere calls for ceasefires are dismissed in the most arrogant way by European and US leaders, who themselves are the ones who want the conflicts to continue. This deepens the lack of legitimacy of these leaders in the eyes of the billions in the Global South.
Is it in Europe’s interest to look to the global South?
Europe needs to come to terms that it is not the centre of the world. Europe is home to less than 10% of the world’s people. And yet its ruling elites behave as if they run the world. This sort of attitude is deeply racist and colonial. The European people need to reject this attitude and come to terms with the fact that they share the planet with billions of others and that they are not superior to anyone else. In the years after the start of the Third Great Depression, European countries began to integrate with Russia (through purchases of energy) and with China (through entry into the BRI). This worried the elites in the United States, and in some European countries. They accelerated the New Cold War against China (first around Huawei) and then drove their conflict with Russia into a hot war in Ukraine. These events – the New Cold War and the hot war in Ukraine – has resulted in Europe’s isolation from where the world’s centre of gravity now lies, in Asia.
This has created a dangerous situation for the European people, with inflation now rising and with jingoism enwrapping European society. The European people need new projects that root their development in the development of the rest of the planet, and that learn to collaborate with the Global South to solve the world’s problems (including the climate catastrophe) rather than waste precious resources on war and drive us toward a civilisation of confrontation.
This interview originally appeared in L’Humanité and was republished here by Counterpunch.
Vijay Prashad is the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. His latest book (written with Noam Chomsky) is On Cuba. Reflections on 70 Years of Revolution and Struggle (New York and London: The New Press), and his latest edited volume (with Efemia Chelwa) is Selected Kwame Nkrumah (Johannesburg: Inkani Books and Accra: Militant Publishers).
Scarlett Bain is a journalist with L’Humanité.
Image: Global South ‘Groupings’; Source: Global South Insights, published in ‘Hyper-imperialism – a dangerous threat to humanity’ by the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research.